Volatile Substance Use

Volatile substance use (VSU) is the intentional breathing in of chemical substances by a person to feel drunk, buzzing or excited [23505]. Because the chemical substance is breathed in (or inhaled), these substances are also known as ‘inhalants’. Other terms include ‘petrol sniffing’, ‘chroming’, and ‘huffing’. Some every-day products that are used for sniffing include:

  • deodorant
  • air freshener
  • lighter fluid
  • fly spray
  • petrol.

Inhalants have different effects depending on the way they are inhaled, what type of inhalant it is, how old the user is, and what gender they are [23505]. The short-term effects from sniffing inhalants include:

  • tiredness
  • feeling nauseous (sick)
  • irregular heart beat (arrythmia)
  • memory loss (forgetful)
  • loss of consciousness
  • feelings of wellbeing.

Inhalant use can lead to sudden sniffing death [20888]. Sudden sniffing death can happen when a person who has been sniffing does some exercise, or is stressed or scared (because this puts extra pressure on their heart).

There are some long term harms that can come from sniffing inhalants, including:

  • brain damage
  • damage to the liver, kidneys and heart
  • muscle weakness
  • depression [23505].


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